University of Arizona Students: A Quick Guide to Common Criminal Arrests & Citations

Classes just started on Tuesday, three days ago, and already we have received calls from students and parents. Here’s a quick guide to common University of Arizona citations and arrests, especially for undergraduates, based on our many years experience representing students.

Minor in Possession of Alcohol

First, University Police and other agencies sometimes cite University of Arizona students with “Minor in Possession of Alcohol” (MIP) §ARS 4-244,” a class one misdemeanor. If charged, and summonsed to court, this is a criminal offense. Often, however, especially early in the semester, a new student with no prior issues might be caught in the dorms with a small amount of alcohol and receive only a “warning,” or a non-criminal referral to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, not a criminal citation.

The Dean of Students Office sometimes offers something called “diversion,” which results in the student taking some classes and the matter being closed.

For parents and students it is important to distinguish between a criminal citation and a non-criminal referral to the Dean of Students Office. Sometimes a student receives both. Second and subsequent minor in possession issues are often treated with criminal citations.

As a note, we have seen numerous MIP cases arising in the dorms, but nearly as many where students are stopped, often by campus auxiliary police, while walking on or near campus, usually in late evening, and nearly as many when police break up student parties, often at popular off-campus housing complexes, and issue mass MIP citations.

False I.D

Second, in contrast to MIP, fake or false ID matters often result in criminal charges, even for students with no prior issues. We have had some cases recently where students lose their wallets in the library or elsewhere, only to report to campus police, relieved their wallet has been found, but are instead greeted by the campus police with a criminal citation, the police having combed through the student’s wallet. Often campus police will try to get the student to make admissions at that time.

We have also had many cases where students are caught buying alcohol with fake or false I.D.’s, almost always from the same few local stores within blocks of campus. Police sometimes wait outside in the parking lots and stop students as they leave a store, bag in hand. If convicted with using fake I.D. to purchase alcohol, the penalties for students and others can be somewhat severe, resulting, inter alia in suspension of driving privileges for six months.

Marijuana Possession

Third, in 2010 Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). As a result, marijuana is legally and widely available to AMMA card holders at a prolific and growing number dispensaries in Tucson, some just a few blocks from campus. However, a few things to remember:

First, even for AMMA cardholders marijuana is banned from campus. Second, for those non AMMA students caught with unauthorized marijuana, particularly in the dorms, the results can be surprisingly severe. Unlike MIP, for unauthorized possession of marijuana on campus, criminal charges are the norm, along with a referral to the Dean of Students Office. And sometimes, especially upon a second or subsequent office, speedy eviction from the dorms is imminent.

Third, in recent years the University Police have been treating possession on campus of popular marijuana extracts and concentrates, particularly Butane Hash Oil (BHO), commonly known as “wax,” readily available at nearby dispensaries, as felonies. We have had several cases recently where freshmen, with no prior issues, are caught in the dorms with small amounts of marijuana “wax,” only to be summarily and unceremoniously booked into the Pima County Jail, on felony charges. Search warrants are often obtained in such cases and dorm rooms searched.

A Few Closing Thoughts

University of Arizona is a rich environment, especially for undergraduates, unquestionably replete with social opportunities, and popular choice for many out-of-state students. But the University maintains a “zero tolerance” policy for drugs and alcohol, which is sometimes enforced with harsh results. If you or a family member are charged with or accused of illegal conduct as a University student, it is important that you initially understand your rights and responsibilities. We talk to many students and parents, on a weekly basis, and try to render sound counsel.

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About Michael Harwin

Michael’s skill and experience have been recognized repeatedly. He holds an A-V 5/5 preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell. He has been named one of the top lawyers in Arizona by Southwest Superlawyers, and one of the best lawyers in Tucson by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. He also has been named one of the best lawyers in the United States by BestofUS.com , and given the highest rating possible by AVVO, 10/10 Superb.
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